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Last edited 20 Mar 2018
Types of drawings for building design
Many different types of drawing can be used during the process of designing and constructing buildings. Some of the more commonly-used types of drawing are listed below, with links to articles providing further information.
On building projects it is common for changes to be made during construction because of circumstances that emerge on site. As a result, it is common for as-built drawings to be prepared, either during the construction process or when construction is complete, to reflect what has actually been built.
The contractor will generally mark up changes to the ‘final construction issue’ drawings on-site using red ink, and these can then be used by the consultant team to create record drawings showing the completed project.
For more information see: As-built drawings and record drawings.
Assembly drawings can be used to represent items that consist of more than one component. They show how the components fit together and may include, orthogonal plans, sections and elevations, or three-dimensional views, showing the assembled components, or an exploded view showing the relationship between the components and how they fit together.
Block plans usually show the siting of a project in relation to Ordnance Survey Maps. Conventions are used to depict boundaries, roads and other details. Depending on the size of the project, recommended scales are:
- 1 : 2500
- 1 : 1250
- 1 : 500
For more information, see Block plan.
Generally, components are ‘self-contained’ and sourced from a single supplier, typically the complete unit provided by that supplier rather than its constituent parts. Component drawings provide detailed information about the individual units. They may be drawn at large scales such as; 1:10, 1:5, 1:2, 1:1, and so on. They may include information such as component dimensions, construction, tolerances, and so on.
For more information see: Component drawing.
Concept drawings or sketches are drawings, often freehand, that are used as a quick and simple way of exploring initial ideas for designs. They are not intended to be accurate or definitive, merely a way of investigating and communicating design principles and aesthetic concepts.
For more information see: Concept drawing.
Working drawings or construction drawings provide dimensioned, graphical information that can be used; by a contractor to construct the works, or by suppliers to fabricate components of the works or to assemble or install components. Along with specifications and bills of quantities or schedules of work, they form a part of the 'production information', that is prepared by designers and passed to the construction team to enable a project to be constructed.
Design drawings are used to develop and communicate ideas about a developing design. In the early stages they might simply demonstrate to the client the ability of a particular design team to undertake the design. They may then be used to develop and communicating the brief, investigate potential sites and assess options, develop the approved idea into a coherent and co-ordinated design, and so on.
For more information see: Design drawings.
Detail drawings provide a detailed description of the geometric form of a part of an object such as a building, bridge, tunnel, machine, plant, and so on. They tend to be large-scale drawings that show in detail parts that may be included in less detail on general arrangement drawings.
For more information see: Detail drawing.
The term ‘elevation’ refers to an orthographic projection of the exterior (or sometimes the interior) faces of a building, that is a two-dimensional drawing of the building’s façades. As buildings are rarely simple rectangular shapes in plan, an elevation drawing is a first angle projection that shows all parts of the building as seen from a particular direction with the perspective flattened. Generally, elevations are produced for four directional views, for example, north, south, east, west.
For more information see: Elevations.
Floor plans are a form of orthographic projection that can be used to show the layout of rooms within buildings, as seen from above. They may be prepared as part of the design process, or to provide instructions for construction, often associated with other drawings, schedules, and specifications.
For more information see: Floor plan.
An engineering drawing is a type of technical drawing used to define the requirements for engineering products or components. Typically, the purpose of an engineering drawing is to clearly and accurately capture all geometric features of a product or component so that a manufacturer or engineer can produce the required item.
For more information see: Engineering drawing.
General arrangement drawings (GA’s, sometimes referred to as location drawings) present the overall composition of an object such as a building. Depending on the complexity of the building, this is likely to require a number of different projections, such as plans, sections and elevations, and may be spread across several different drawings.
For more information see: General arrangement drawing.
Installation drawings present the information needed by trades to install part of the works. This may be particularly important for complex installations such as plant rooms, data centres, ventilation systems, underfloor heating, and so on.
For more information see: Installation drawing.
A location plan is a supporting document that may be required by a planning authority as part of a planning application. A location plan provides an illustration of the proposed development in its surrounding context.
For more information, see Location plan.
Perspective drawing is a technique for depicting 3-dimensional volumes and spatial relationships based on the eye level and vanishing point (or points) of the viewer. It can give a realistic impression of what a volume or space will look like in reality.
Constructing perspective drawings of buildings is extremely complicated, but has been much simplified recently by the development of computer aided design (CAD), building information modelling (BIM) and other forms of computer generated imagery (CGI).
Scale drawing is a generic term used to describe any drawing that illustrates items at less than (or more than) their actual size. This is generally necessary where the items is so large or small that it is not useful or convenient to draw it at its actual size.
For more information see: Scale drawing.
A section drawing shows a view of a structure as though it had been sliced in half or cut along another imaginary plane. This can be useful as it gives a view through the spaces and surrounding structures (typically across a vertical plane) that can reveal the relationships between the different parts of the buildings that might not be apparent on plan drawings.
For more information see: Section drawings.
Shop drawings might be prepared by contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers or fabricators. They generally relate to pre-fabricated components, showing how they should be manufactured or installed. They take design intent drawings and specifications prepared by the project design team and develop them to show in detail how the component will actually be manufactured, fabricated, assembled or installed.
For more information see: Shop drawing
A site plan is a large-scale drawing that shows the full extent of the site for an existing or proposed development. Site plans, along with location plans, may be necessary for planning applications. In most cases, site plans will be drawn up following a series of desk studies and site investigations.
For more information see: Site plan.
The term ‘technical drawing’ has a very broad meaning, referring to any drawing that conveys the way that something functions or how it is constructed. Technical drawings are intended to convey one specific meaning, as opposed to artistic drawings which are expressive and may be interpreted in a number of ways. Most drawings prepared during the design and construction of buildings might be considered to be technical drawings.
For more information see: Technical drawing.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural reprography.
- Bill of quantities.
- Building information modelling.
- Computer aided design.
- Geometric form.
- Manual drafting techniques.
- Measurement of existing buildings.
- North American Paper Sizes
- Notation and symbols.
- Paper sizes.
- Production information.
- Standard hatching styles for drawings.
- Symbols on architectural drawings.
- Technical drawing pen sizes.
- Techniques for drawing buildings.
- The origins of perspective.
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